15 Common Mistakes to Avoid for Successful Pelvic Floor Exercises

Successful pelvic floor exercises

Not getting results from your pelvic floor exercises?

Unsure how to get the strengthening you need?

Avoid wasting your time with pelvic exercises that aren’t working for you.

Here are 15 common pelvic floor exercise mistakes along with Pelvic Floor Physio solutions for getting the most out of your training.

15 Common Mistakes to Avoid for Successful Pelvic Floor Exercises

1. Bearing Down

Some women mistakenly bear down (push down) on their pelvic floor when doing their pelvic floor exercises. Bearing down through the pelvic floor can stretch and strain the pelvic floor tissues making make pelvic floor problems worse.

Pelvic floor descentAvoid bearing down exercises causing pelvic floor descent (shown left). It’s imperative to avoid bearing down, especially with pelvic floor exercises after vaginal surgery

Correct Exercise Tips

  • Lift inwards around all 3 pelvic openings as if stopping or slowing the flow of urine having once started.
  • Practice sitting on a chair or exercise ball – try to lift your pelvic openings away from the supporting surface

2. Forgetting to Lift

A common mistake is just squeezing around the pelvic openings with out lifting them inwards.

Correct Exercise Tip

Correct pelvic floor exercise technique involves lifting inwards and squeezing the pelvic floor muscles in and around all 3 pelvic openings at once.

3. Incomplete Muscle Activation

The pelvic floor muscles all 3 pelvic openings; the urethra (urine tube), vagina and anus. Some women focus all their efforts on one opening rather than all 3 openings.

Correct Exercise Tip

Aim for correct pelvic floor exercise technique by squeezing and lifting in and around all three pelvic openings simultaneously when doing your pelvic floor exercises.

4. Insufficient Muscle Relaxation

The pelvic floor muscles need to relax having once contracted. Lack of pelvic floor relaxation with exercises can cause pelvic floor muscle spasm and/or pelvic floor fatigue.

Correct Exercise Tip

Make sure that you lower your pelvic floor muscles back to resting level having once contracted them and rest

5. Over-bracing Abdominal Muscles   Abdominal muscle bracing

The strong outer abdominal muscles (‘6 pack’ abdominal muscles) shouldn’t contract strongly during pelvic floor exercises.

It’s normal to feel some abdominal wall contraction during pelvic floor exercises however a strong upper abdominal contraction (shown right) should be avoided.

Correct Exercise Tip

Maintain good upright posture and focus on contracting your pelvic floor muscles without drawing your upper abdomen inwards during your pelvic floor exercises.

5. Poor Posture

Slumped forwards posture increase downward pressure on the pelvic floor thereby decreasing the effectiveness of pelvic floor exercises.

Correct Exercise Tip

Maintain correct posture for pelvic floor exercises by lifting the crown of your head towards the ceiling and keep your spine lengthened throughout for most effective pelvic floor exercises.

6. Squeezing your Buttocks

Women sometimes squeeze their buttocks in the mistaken belief that this action constitutes pelvic floor exercises.

Pelvic floor exercises don’t involve buttock muscles squeezing, your buttocks should remain relaxed during your exercises.

Correct Exercise Tips Sitting on an exercise ball

  • Use a gentle pelvic floor activation technique when starting out – if your buttocks contract stop and start again keeping them relaxed
  • Try sitting on an exercise ball or a chair to feel your pelvic floor exercises
  • Start by squeezing your buttocks together and feel this action against the surface of the ball
  • Next try to activate your pelvic floor muscles without squeezing your buttocks lifting your pelvic openings inwards away from the surface of the ball and notice the different sensation.

7. Squeezing your Thighs

Some ladies squeeze their thighs when attempting to contract their pelvic floor muscles. This is a similar mistake to squeezing the buttocks often used with weak pelvic floor muscles. This gives the mistaken impression that the pelvic floor muscles are working when in fact they may not be.

Correct Exercise Tip

If you find yourself squeezing your thighs try to learn to contract your pelvic floor using a more gentle activation technique. Changing position for your pelvic floor exercises may help you to practice the correct technique.

8. Doing too Many Exercises

 

When it comes to doing pelvic floor exercises for strengthening, more isn’t necessarily better. In the past women were instructed to perform hundreds of Kegels daily.

Research now tells us that for effective strengthening muscles need a certain dose of exercise and that too much exercise can over fatigue causing muscle weakness.

Correct Exercise Tip

Pelvic floor exercises for strengthening involve up to 8-10 exercises performed in succession (1 set), 2-3 times during the day.

9. Doing too Few Exercises

The pelvic floor muscles need to be exercised to fatigue for most effective strengthening.

When starting out your pelvic floor may become fatigued after a couple of exercises – this is normal. If however you are capable of doing up to 8-10 repetitions in a row, this is the dose your pelvic floor muscles  need to strengthen most effectively.

Correct Exercise Tip

As your strength improves gradually increase the number of pelvic floor exercises that you repeat in a row.

10. Lack of Intensity

One reason why some women don’t get the results they’re after with their exercises is due to of a lack of voluntary effort with each exercise.

Successful pelvic floor strengthening requires that every exercise involves a very strong voluntary effort.

Correct Exercise Tips

  • When starting out for most women its usually best to use light to moderate effort to ensure that the technique is correct.
  • When you’re sure about using the correct technique then start to increase the voluntary effort you use with every exercise.

11. Lack of Recovery Time recovery time

Your pelvic floor muscles need sufficient time to recover between exercises to allow for the next strong effort. Insufficient rest between exercises prevents you from using your maximal effort in the next exercise.

Correct Exercise Tips

  • When starting out take the time your pelvic floor muscles need to recover between individual exercises (up to 30-45 seconds if your muscles are weak).
  • Gradually decrease the length of rests between individual exercises as your pelvic floor strength and fitness improve.

12. Lack of Attention

Some ladies try to do their pelvic floor exercises while driving the car, doing their makeup or even walking resulting in ineffective pelvic floor strengthening.

Getting the most out of each exercise requires giving it your full attention and maximal voluntary effort.

Correct Exercise Tip

Choose a time to do your exercises when you can give them your undivided attention. It’s more effective to get the most you can out of a few well performed exercises than many poorer attempts.

If you’re busy try to choose a time when you’ve momentarily stopped for example standing in a queue, sitting on the bus

13.  Non-Functional Exercise Position

We need our pelvic floor muscles to work effectively in our everyday functional upright positions (i.e. sitting and standing). Some ladies make the mistake of doing all their pelvic floor exercises lying down long-term. Your pelvic floor muscles will strengthen most effectively when trained to work upright against the downward force of gravity

Correct Exercise Tip

  • Some women find that they need to commence their pelvic floor exercises lying down and this is quite normal
  • Commence your exercises in the position you can best feel your pelvic floor muscles working
  • Try to progress your exercises to doing them in upright positions when you’re able to do so. Doing your pelvic floor exercises in sitting or standing will train your pelvic floor muscles to work well when you need them most

14. Lack of Progression

Pelvic floor muscles need to be progressively challenged to work harder during the course of training. Challenging muscles helps you get the most benefit out of strengthening exercises. If you don’t progress your exercises, your muscles wont have the stimulus they need to strengthen further.

Correct Exercise Tips

Progress your pelvic floor exercises by:

  • Increasing the strength of your exercises
  • Choosing upright training positions
  • Reducing rest in between each exercise
  • Increasing the number of exercises you do (up to 10-12 in a row)

15. Lack of Training

Sometimes it can be disheartening to see very little improvement and this is understandable. Unfortunately some ladies stop their pelvic floor exercises dismissing them as ineffective when they don’t see immediate results when in fact a little more perseverance may have resulted in a marked improvement in their pelvic floor.

Correct Exercise Tip

Take a long-term approach to your pelvic floor exercises. For some ladies with weak pelvic floor muscles it can take 5-6 months of regular progressive exercises to strengthen their pelvic floor muscles. Commit to regular ongoing pelvic floor exercises to strengthen and then maintain your stronger pelvic floor muscles.


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